This bill — the Fair Environmental Trade Agreements Act of 2018 — would require the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to certify that any trade agreements the U.S. enters into with other countries would include strong, enforceable provisions relating to environmental and labor standards. The House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee would receive these certifications from the USTR.
What is House Bill H.R. 7064?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 7064
In-Depth: Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) introduced this bill to require the USTR to certify that any trade agreement the U.S. enters into with another country includes strong and enforceable provisions relating to environmental and labor standards:
“It makes no sense that we are buying products, once made in America, from countries that are making these same products more cheaply because they have no environmental or labor standards. Environmental and labor standards need to be a requirement for every trade agreement that the United States enters into.”
“The Trump administration is focused on trade deficits in its drive to negotiate new trade agreements, but it should also be making sure that U.S. manufacturing has a level playing field with its overseas competitors when it comes to environmental and labor standards.”
Jim Stanford, an economist and the director of the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute, adds that at present, most trade deals’ requirements around environmental policy are merely window dressing:
“Most ‘free trade’ deals… feature token language about protecting labour and environmental standards. These provisions are window-dressing: responding to fears that global competition will spark a downward spiral in social standards. Typically these clauses simply commit signatories to follow their own laws – with no requirement that those laws are decent to start with. Progressive trade deals would have safeguards that are enforceable, including requiring participating jurisdictions to respect universal standards or lose preferential trade rights. Where trade partners have different standards (such as, for example, levying varying degrees of carbon pricing), border adjustments must be permitted so that trade competition does not undermine environmental and social progress.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Ana Eiras and Brett Schaefer argue that free trade without environmental conditions is the best way to protect the environment and those who benefit from global free trade:
“[There is] concern among some Members of Congress that free trade creates a "race to the bottom" in environmental protection. Nothing could be further from the truth. Poor nations cannot afford to value environmental protection more highly than such basic goods as food or health care. If poor nations are to increase environmental protection, they must first increase their wealth. Free trade is a necessary component in catalyzing economic growth. Therefore, free trade is critical in providing the economic means that will enable countries to adopt measures that enhance their protection of the environment…. Even if trade agreements were forged with environmental restrictions … they would be more likely to undermine environmental protection in developing countries rather than promote it. Countries with higher incomes are better able to afford environmental protection. Imposing such standards on poorer nations places them in a Catch-22 between paying for environmental protection or staples like food or health care.”
Of Note: Currently, the trade promotion authority law’s list of negotiating objectives includes holding trading partners accountable for labor and environmental standards — but it doesn’t require these standards to be part of a trade agreement.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / MarioGuti)
Fair Environmental Trade Agreements Act of 2018
To require the United States Trade Representative to certify certain trade agreements respecting labor and the environment entered into by the United States, and for other purposes.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on RulesCommittee on Ways and MeansIntroducedOctober 16th, 2018
- house Committees